In a world chock full of stodgy and sometimes scurrilous Shakespeare books, anything that breaks the mold stands out. So when I received an unexpected package, I wasn't expecting a Shakespeare popup book.
Also called "movable books", they expand to display elements in the story. Flaps reveal surprises or sliding tabs animate the various elements or characters. Complex "paper engineering" has created intricate designs, from architectural marvels and works of art to soaring Star Wars ships. Examples of beautiful popup books reside in the New York MOMA, The Getty Museum, and The Smithsonian.
The basic concept of popup books has been around in one form or another for centuries (and even further when considering the history of origami). Mainly used by scholarly works since the 13th century, the choice to create a pop-up book about William Shakespeare is more appropo than initially meets the eye—and doubly so when the Reduced Shakespeare Company's Austin Tichenor and Reed Martin team up to make it an entertaining read.
English artist Jennie Maizels has beautifully illustrated the five intricate spreads which comprise Pop-up Shakespeare. Her illustration style is simple, approachable, and colorful, while capturing the essence of key scenes or characters in the plays.
The first spread is has a variety of flaps enabling the reader to explore aspects of life in London and Stratford. The spreads that follow cover each genre of plays, including the sonnets and poems. Humorous and cheeky descriptions of each work are peppered throughout, including a sassy overview of long-lost Cardenio, which is sure to give you a chuckle. Don't miss the "Long Story Short" blurbs, which distill down the plot into a few pithy words. Also, look carefully for the pop-ups, they can be camouflaged into the art (make sure to turn the entire book around as well).
Pop-up Shakespeare is fun, simple, and unpretentious. It's not trying to be like the complex Game of Thrones popup book. It's both friendly and approachable—something that the Shakespeare world frankly needs more of—and breaks stereotypes of how Shakespeare should be learned or experienced. While it's aimed at a younger crowd, surely adults would enjoy both the whimsical writing and delightful illustrations—even learn a little. At $19.99 (and nearly half that in some places), it's an excellent holiday gift for a budding Shakespearean, young, old, or anywhere in between.